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City to Consider Opposition Council

The City Duma on Wednesday will consider in a crucial second reading a bill that would create a consultative council consisting of members of political parties that are not represented in the Duma.

The City Duma is currently made up of deputies from just two parties: the Communists and United Russia, which swept the October city legislature elections that the opposition claimed were rigged. United Russia has 32 seats in the Duma, while the other three went to the Communists.

The bill to be considered Wednesday would give the new council the power to draft legislative proposals for consideration by the Duma and City Hall. The council's head would also be allowed to voice his opinion on proposed legislation during Duma sessions.

Political parties not currently represented in the Duma were skeptical about the new council.

Yabloko leader Sergei Mitrokhin called it merely "an attempt to gloss over" manipulations in the October elections. "We believe the Duma is illegitimate and that cooperation with it is unacceptable," he said.

Igor Trunov, head of the Moscow branch of the Kremlin-loyal, pro-business party Right Cause, called the proposed council's powers "vague" and said his party would consider calling on other opposition parties to refuse to join unless its powers are increased.

Should a boycott fail, however, Right Cause may join, if only for the right to voice its opinions at Duma sessions, Trunov said.

Viktor Sobolev, a senior official with the Moscow branch of the ultranationalist Liberal Democratic Party, said his party would join if the council "would really help us protect the interests of voters." A number of amendments could be introduced to the bill Wednesday, thus changing its proposed powers, Sobolev said.

Nadezhda Korneyeva, a senior official with the Patriots of Russia party, said her party has no illusions "that all our statements will be taken into account" but that it would join the council if given the opportunity because it has "a responsibility for the people we called on to vote for us."

Natalya Borodina, an official with the Moscow branch of A Just Russia, said the council was being created to give the impression of pluralism and that her party would not join the "useless undertaking."

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